“I feel like chicken tonight, chicken tonight” a learned philosopher once said…
When we were kids my sister and I would always chant “winner, winner chicken dinner” over and over as we banged our cutlery on the table when roast chicken was on the menu. It was always a fave in our house and I reckon we were not alone.
It Tastes Just Like Chicken..
Chicken and chicken dishes are very popular of course, who doesn’t like chicken? Like the bacon sandwich, a roast chicken dinner is just one of those meals it is very hard to live without. There are probably a number of vegetarians shouting at their screen as they read this right now but at the risk of alienating poultry lovers everywhere, I’m going to go out on a limb and say, you really can’t beat a chicken dinner.
However, when it comes to a wine choice with your chicken, it’s not an easy one, chicken can go with a wide range of different wines so it’s not always a straightforward choice. It really all depends on how you cook it and what you serve with it.
Don’t forget, that chicken is something of a hybrid with dark and light meat and on its own can be a little bland which often means there is a sauce to contend with.
This opens up a lot of different possibilities when choosing what wine to have with chicken, whether you are in a restaurant or dining at home.
But how do you pick the right one for you? Well, there are a variety of things to consider here. However as we always say at Inspiring Wines use our suggestions only as a guide, it’s all about personal taste in the end. If you want to open a bottle of Lambrini with a mega-bucket of fried wings, knock yourself out!
What’s In It? Check Out The Ingredients
As always when matching wine with food think about what makes up the dish. What ingredients are being served with your chicken. For instance, you might be serving up your chicken with some green spring veg such as peas or green beans. If that’s the case, a white wine could work well that has a similar green tang those vegetables, a Sancerre for example.
Alternatively, you could be opting for a more earthbound veg like mushrooms. The flavour there is all about the ‘umami’ so, you could try a Merlot? This has a natural woody taste and will pair wonderfully with this type of vegetable. A mistake that people often make is to think that it’s all about the meat. While the meat in a dish plays a big part, it’s not the only factor to consider, make sure you think about all the ingredients. Don’t forget the veg!
It is also worth noting that you might want to pair the wine based on the dish’s sauce or gravy. If you are serving up a creamy Italian chicken dish with a thick sauce for example, a Pinot Gris could be a brilliant choice. Light and acidic, it will add loads to the dish, cut through the creaminess but not overpower the flavours.
Herbs And Spices
Don’t worry, I promise we’re getting to the chicken itself, but you should also look at what herbs and spices are being used. Is your dish full of fire and spice? Then you really need a wine that contrasts with this rather well, and if you’re selecting a red, a Pinot Noir could be an excellent option. If you would rather have white wine, a Reisling could be a perfect choice. The citrus flavour will clash beautifully with a spicy selection. What about barbecue chicken? Look to New Zealand and select a Sauvignon Blanc. A good New Zealand Sauvignon will hold up well against heavy flavours like paprika as well as some of the hotter barbecue sauces.
A Selection Of Our Favourite Chicken Dishes – And Great Wines To Pair With Them
Obviously there is a plethora of different chicken dishes, we couldn’t possibly list them all with a suggested wine so we have picked out some of the ‘big hitters’ from some of our favourite chefs and suggested a few wines you could try with them:
Chicken Kiev: Try White Rioja
Perhaps it’s a tasty chicken Kiev for your dinner tonight? You might be trying Jamie’s recipe or something simple from Simon Rimmer, both are very good.
So, what wine should you try? Well, what you need to bear in mind about this dish, whichever recipe you are following, is that it can be slightly oily and will more than likely be extremely garlicky! So you need a wine that will offset the garlic but isn’t overpowered by it. Our suggestion here is a White Rioja, it has the body to hold its own against the garlic and enough acidity to cut through the oil of the dish.
Roast Chicken: Try Viognier or White Grenache
There are loads of takes on the classic roast chicken here are just two suggestions:
A full roast with all the trimmings. Yum! Depending on what your favourite trimmings are there could be a whole load of flavours going on, do you throw a mini Yorkshire pud on the side for example? Ah, just me then?!
You need a wine that has enough about it to stand up to all the different tastes on the plate but not to overpower any of them. No easy task but our suggestion is either a Viognier or something of predominantly that grape or a White Grenache, either would make an interesting pairing. If you are feeling a bit flush a good French Chardonnay or Pouilly Fuisse would also work well but they can be pricy.
Fried Chicken: Try Sparkling Rose or Pink Champagne
I know, a little on the decadent side but you only live once! You’ll be surprised how well a bucket of chicken from a well know Colonel goes with champagne but especially with pink Champagne or Sparkling. Rosé Champagnes compliment fried chicken beautifully but obviously not everyone can stretch to a Heidsieck or Bollinger when they’ve a craving for a 3 piece with fries so for a more affordable but equally joyous pairing try Franciacorta from Italy or even better, our top choice would have to be a Franciacorta Rosé.
Chicken Pie: Try Australian Chardonnay
Ummmm Pie!… If you are cooking a chicken pie, and why wouldn’t you be! You may be making something that is filled with a rich creamy sauce. If you are, try one of the great new wave of Aussie Chardonnays, the warmer climate gives these wines a rich flavour that can match the cream of the sauce in your pie. Many a Californian Chardonnay would also work but there are some great Chardonnays coming out of Australia right now.
If you are going for the spicy chicken and chorizo option look at Spanish Rioja, Jumilla or Priorat or you could try a Tempranillo or Monastrell.
Chicken Chasseur: Try Italian Barbera, Barbaresco or Barolo
Any chicken dish with a sauce that is rich in tomatoes can be complimented with a wonderful Merlot and who doesn’t like a Merlot? But here at Inspiring Wines we always like to take the path less traveled so we are suggesting an Italian Barbera, Barbaresco or even if you can stretch a Barolo. In fact many medium bodied Italian wines would work, you are looking for a wine that is medium in body but with higher acidity and ideally higher alcohol to really set off the flavours of the dish.
Coq-au-Vin: Try a NZ Pinot Noir
The French Master himself, this is a great recipe, takes ages but great all the same!
And you can’t beat a bit of Delia:
A classic French dish like this really needs a classic French wine, a Red Burgundy perhaps but they can be expensive so as an alternative why not try a Pinot Noir from New Zealand. Ideally you need to look towards Canterbury and the Waipara Valley or Nelson for fragrant, complex, earthy, savoury textured wines with rich, spicy, cherry and plum flavours. New Zealand Pinots tend to be balanced and supple with fine tannins making them perfect to match with a coq-au-vin. And do not forget to use plenty of the wine during cooking the dish to add flavour right in to the pot.
Of course, Coq-au vin isn’t the only time when you can add a great wine to boost up the sauce to go with your chicken. White wine can be added to butter and cream sauces and works well with chicken. Whichever wine you use in the sauce can also be served with the dish and the flavours will complement each other. It is always recommended to use a half decent bottle when cooking, it really does make a difference. Another nugget of useful information is to use a wine with high alcohol content in your sauces where possible as this will tend to make them taste slightly sweeter.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of chicken dishes, there are many, many more and I’m sure some of you are questioning why a particular dish you love isn’t on the list, apologies if I’ve missed your favourite, there are so many I think I’ll be back again soon with more great recipes and suggested wines to pair with them. In fact, as I think about it, there is probably a whole blog to be written just about chicken curries and great wines to go with them.
I hope these suggestions help and you find the right wine to go with your chicken dish whatever is on the menu. I’m off to open a bottle of pink fizz and get on the phone to ‘The Colonel’…Zinger anyone?
Written (and tested) by Dean Spencer – Director – Inspiring Wines
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